‘‘These kinds of tests are very good at telling us who’s ahead in the race. They don’t have a lot to say about causes or why countries are where they are,’’ said Brookings Institution senior fellow Tom Loveless, who in previous years represented the U.S. in the international group that administers the test.
Other findings released Tuesday:
— Some U.S. states that were measured separately were clear standouts, performing on par with or better than some top-performing Asian countries. Eighth-graders in Massachusetts and Minnesota score far better in math and science than the U.S. average. But in California and Alabama, eighth-graders fell short of the national average.
— Racial and class disparities are all too real. In eighth grade, Americans in the schools with the highest poverty — those with 75 percent or more of students on free or reduced-price lunch — performed below both the U.S. average and the lower international average. Students at schools with fewer poor kids performed better. In fourth-grade reading, all ethnic groups outperformed the international average, but white and Asian students did better than their black and Hispanic classmates.
— Boys in the U.S. do better than girls in fourth-grade science and eighth-grade math. But girls rule when it comes to reading.
— On a global level, the gender gap appears to be closing. About half of the countries showed no statistically meaningful gap between boys and girls in math and science.
The tests are carried out by the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a coalition of research institutions. The U.S. portion of the exams is coordinated by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/
Progress in International Reading Literacy Study: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pirls/
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP